First off, I'll give a little context to this post...I'm in Paris currently for my job and needed a distraction. This isn't my first long stay here before for work, so I've spent plenty of time seeing the sights, and this time I decided I'd try to document and explore Paris' bike share system, Velib, and the city's bike infrastructure, and see how it compares to DC. Many thanks to TFTS for helping me share my experiences and I hope this doesn't end up being TL:DR...
In many ways, DC and Paris are similar, just on different scales...wide boulevards with streets radiating from large traffic circles. Paris proper, however, fits about almost four times as many people into an area about two thirds the size of DC, so it is seriously dense. Like DC, Paris also is fairly car-dependent, unlike say Amsterdam or Copenhagen, so it's not some cycling paradise. Still, the cycling infrastructure is far superior to DC's the drivers are much more tolerant to used to sharing the road, so there's a much greater sense of security on the streets. Paris also has squeezed sharrows, bike lanes, and cycletracks into just about every nook and cranny available, so it's rare that you end up having to ride in the actual street.
|Sidewalk, cycletrack, sidewalk, bus lane, traffic lane...and yet traffic isn't ground to a halt|
|Cycletracks often get preference over pedestrian space|
|Cycletrack meets sharrows|
|Contra-flow bus/bike line|
Okay, so now on to Velib, Paris' bikeshare system. Velib started in 2007 and has something like 20,000 bikes and over 1200 stations. It is massive. Even the smallest Velib stations are larger than many CaBi stations. From my observations, the system gets plenty of use, too, even during one of Europe's coldest winters. The system operates similarly to CaBi. Choose a day, week, or yearly membership and you can check out a bike for up to 30 mins for free. Daily memberships are 1.70 euros (about $2.25) and an annual membership is 29 euros (about $38). There's also an option for a 39 euro annual membership, which gets you 45 minutes of riding time instead of 30...kind of a cool option. Originally, I planned to use Velib to commute, but my hotel is so close to my office it just doesn't make sense, so I've just been using the system for recreational riding.
Although I hear the kiosks only take the chipped euro-style credit cards, you can easily buy a subscription online and use it immediately. I have a yearly CaBi membership, so I haven't spent much time using the kiosks, but I did have to use it once and I found it very clunky. The Velib kiosks are extremely easy to use, with large, clear LCD screens and multiple language options. If you have an annual subscription, you can get an Smarttrip-like card that you can use directly at the spot where the bike is locked into the station. The bikes have a flange-type thingy on the side instead of the stem-mounted lock on CaBi.
|[Ed. note: Marc isn't actually trapped in the machine. It's just an optical illusion. I hope]|
|You have to press the silver button to release the bike|
|Why would anyone lock up a bikeshare bike?|
|Oh I see....|
|Place de la Bastille...on to...|
|...to the Eiffel Tower. All in about an hour.|
|Ironically, this jackass parked in the bus/bike lane and ran into the bike shop|
|The curb separation for the cycletrack didn't stop this delivery truck|
|A very common sight on weekdays|
|Sweet! 19 bikes available...|
Bike shops in Paris are awesome. One, Merci, is a bookstore/coffeeshop/furniture store/perfumery/puzzle store/art exhibit. If you find yourself in Paris, you really should drop in.
I also stopped at another, smaller shop just up the road:
|Had to buy something French, so I picked up this sweet wool jersey|
|Taking the lane on the Champs Elysees|
|Sunday is an ideal day to ride...no traffic anywhere.|
|Paris is relatively flat, but there are some climbs, like up to Montmartre|
|It's cold out!|
|Autolib, Paris' electric carshare system|